Monique Kluczykowski

My Father’s Silent Films

They have always been in an old blue suitcase—the hard-backed kind with brass latches and airline stickers all over: Roma, SAS, Paris, North by Northwest. My father entrusted them to me, for me to find someone to transfer them to DVD, but I never had the disposable cash until now. Now that he is dead.

South Korea, near the DMZ, 1961:

Smiling, tanned, uniformed men wave towards the camera as tanks rumble by the mess hall. Out on maneuvers—war practice, if you will. The tanks are faster than they look and when the turret swivels its guns to face you, your throat goes dry. Sand and dust fly by. I look for him, but of course, he’s behind the lens.

Christmas, circa 1964:

Here I am, wearing pale blue cheongsam pajamas. My mother enters from the bedroom hallway, a dramatic entrance. Her pajamas are a deep, dark red. We both wave on cue.

My father, crew-cut in a white cashmere sweater enters the frame—who is holding the camera? We appear to discuss my cocktail (7-Up and maraschino cherries) in a highball glass. He adds more cherries, ruffles my bowl cut, smiles. Someone must call him, his head turns and he gets up, moves offstage. Who is this man and where did he go?

Frankfurt zoo, 1965:

I am dressed in a skirt with suspenders, riding a donkey. Red suede Mary Janes, white socks. My mother wears a full grey midi skirt, faux fur capelet, a white beret on her dark curls, white sunglasses that might hide a bruise. My grandmother’s steel-grey marcelled bob, black gloves, black pumps. My uncle—who would die of AIDS 30 years later—so handsome with his slicked-back blond hair. How elegant we all are.

Fort Knox, 1970:

We are playing lawn darts with a blonde woman, a darker man, strangers to me—and my mother, tanned and slim in white bermudas and white sleeveless blouse, hits the center of the yellow plastic target, pumps her slender arms.

We might have been happy that summer.


Monique Kluczykowski, a first-generation Polish-German immigrant, has worked as a band roadie, waitress, warehouse picker, and college professor. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her most recent poems and non-fiction have appeared in Belletrist, Sierra Nevada Review, StepAway Magazine, and Foliate Oak.

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